Time, a sometimes endless ocean of regret as it pushes us ever forward through the mortal veil, and all anyone can do is move forward with it for fear of being left behind. Every one of us fears this regret, that we let time pass without doing the things we wanted to do in our lives. What do you do when you're left behind? When all your dreams have passed and you look around at a world you barely know.
The hands of time had stopped for Rinoa Heartilly seven years ago, frozen at ten and two. The world had moved on, its clock had not stopped and it had no time to wait for her to stop dreaming. While she slept, the world she knew changed, and all the she knew and dreamed of faded away. Seven years ago, she entered the Sorceress Memorial. Seven years ago, her knight had come to rescue her, but failed. And for seven long years, she lay in that coffin. She never thought that what she took for granted, friends, family, could disappear like an evanescent vapor. But they did. In one moment, all of that was gone and when she awoke, there was nothing left but shadows of memory.
So here she sat, in the tiny town of Winhill, watching the world go on without her from the loft apartment of Raine's old bar. At least this time she was conscious. The thought made her laugh, though it sounded hollow and quite sad in the gloom of early evening.
Months had passed since she'd awaken, and for the most part, Rinoa had felt that she'd dealt with the changes well. At least, as well as expected. Quistis and Laguna both had been so kind. She knew that they both doubted her ability to make it on her own, and would prefer for her to stay in Esthar. But she couldn't, that place was too full of people, and reminders of her one great regret. So, she feebly tried to carve out a new life for herself. Showing them both how brave she could be, when in truth she was terrified. She wanted to leave Esthar not to start a great new life, but to run away from her past. A past that like a pursing dog, refused to stop nipping at her heels.
Every time she thought she put everything behind her, it would rise to remind her of who she was and what she lost. It was hard to really come to the realization that the world had forgotten her. The friends she treasured so dear, left her for dead. To them, she was nothing but a statue and a memorial plaque. Even the man she thought she loved; whom she thought loved her in his own unique way, the man who tried to save her...Squall. Even thinking his name was so hard, and Rinoa had to close her eyes. All but Quistis and Laguna, a man she barely knew, had given up hope. Gratitude was a hollow concept in Rinoa's mind, for they deserved so much more than mere grateful thanks for what they did. There were no words, or deed she could conceive of to express her feelings for them. They'd done so much for her.
Still, she was left with her regret and wishes that things had been different. Deep inside, Rinoa knew they should be different. If it were in her power to change the events of that day, she would in a heart beat. But you can't change time and fate cannot be circumvented, all she could do was lament for what was and what might have been. Her mother had always said that should haves and could haves don't matter, it's what is that does matter. Rinoa tried hard to live up to that at one time, but it became harder now, because all that she knew was gone. This world was unfamiliar to her, cold and without comfort.
Yes, she had been brave for Quistis and Laguna, but it was all a show. Smoke and mirrors. The new "life" she had started was a joke. She rarely left the little bar, and when she did, it was always for quick trips. It wasn't living at all it wasn't even surviving. She was running, like a coward, and she knew it. Keeping the townsfolk at arm's length, not that it was hard. They weren't particularly fond of strangers, even less fond of those with the last name, Loire. They left her alone, and that was enough, she supposed. It was still a lonely existence and sometimes she wished that she were back in Esthar. Despite her fears of being discovered, being with all those people was better than being totally alone. At least she had Laguna to talk to.
Rinoa shook her head, no, this was better...to be away from large crowds and eyes that might recognize her. Rationally, she really had nothing to be afraid of. To the world at large, Rinoa Heartilly was still entombed in the memorial. A living dead ice sculpture, and a macabre monument to the end of the era of the sorceress.
Earlier that day, Rinoa had gone out on a rare trip for groceries. She'd been perusing the small DVD rental section, and noticed a copy of the movie made about their lives. Rinoa had remembered Quistis saying they had made one, well, actually she had said they'd made more than one. But the one she'd rented was supposed to be the best. It was morbid curiosity that drove her to rent it. A need to relive the past for a moment, and wallow in its comfort, what little it could give, because that's what she need right now. Reassurance of her place in this world, or the place she'd once occupied.
Now that place belonged to another and though Rinoa didn't want to be jealous of Elise, she couldn't help it. She had the one thing Rinoa wanted more than anything. Squall. Once again, she winced at the name. He didn't love her, she'd tried so hard to convince herself of that truth, and her stubborn heart wouldn't have believed it, if she hadn't heard it from the lion's mouth. The sorceress and I were never involved. She was my client. Rinoa's lip trembled and she swiped away small, bitter tears that had escaped her eyes. She, as always, blamed the dust in this place.
Rinoa looked over at the neglected cleaning supplies and groceries she'd bought. She should be cleaning; Raine's old place was filthy from lack of care. Rinoa had procrastinated, focusing on the sad facts of her life rather than moving on, as she should have. In this still quiet, Rinoa allowed herself to wallow in depression over her situation. Instead of cleaning, she'd popped in the movie. Two more hours of her life wasted.
Rinoa had been a little nervous; after all, no moviemaker can ever capture the truth of one event clearly and precisely, no matter how hard they try. They had done a fair job, most of the details were wrong, but the acting was excellent. Rinoa had expected to cry or be distraught when it came to that one moment, her regret.
At the time, she'd felt that going to the sorceress memorial was the right thing to do. If she was a sorceress, then she might hurt her friends and that was the last thing she'd wanted. Never in a million years did she think that Squall would try and save her. Yet, he did just that. It didn't work out, but with her last real breath she'd been comforted by the fact that he did love her. He tried to rescue her and that was proof enough. It was this reason that she found it so hard to hate him for what he said, why her heart still hoped that somewhere deep inside, Squall Leonhart still loved her.
The moviemakers made a point of making that scene the most stirring. Rinoa had watched the movie with a nearly detached air, as if she wasn't watching events that had happened to her, but to someone else. It was a start, wasn't it? She watched the flickering lights, her eyes stone cold, but a silent wave of tears that rode unbidden down her cheeks. That was two hours ago and she hadn't moved a muscle since.
Rinoa looked out the apartment's window, exhaling in one long, soft breath. How would she move on? She could pretend to be someone else all she wanted, but her tears told the truth of her heart. There was no place for her and she couldn't start again. Those faded memories haunted her. His face haunted her. Memories are but faded dreams, and dreams are nothing but the whispers of your own mind. In the end, if no one remembers you, are you even living at all? It was twilight, the sun was slowly setting and the sky's bright colors began to fade as the world drifted towards night. What would she do? The world had forgotten her and she had unknowingly become someone else's one great regret. Set down in the pages of great regrets that span the folds of time and space. Another dream, spilling out like the contents of a glass jar as it shatters on the floor. Time constantly pushing on.
I want to thank Wayward and Ashbear for letting me put this up. This is a little ficlet inspired by their story Somewhere In Between, which they've been gracious enough to let me put up under my own name. If you haven't already read Somewhere In Between, please go read it now. For those of you who are wondering, this takes place during the time when Rinoa first starts living in Winhill, just after she's been settled and learns of Squall's betrayal of her memory by denying their relationship.
And for those waiting for Angel Wings, I'll be posting sometime soon I hope. I'm in the process of writing the next chapter right now. Just give me some time, I want it to be good! Laters!